Last week saw the release of a handful of new international films, with Jo Nesbø’s Headhunters topping the list, and this week brings with it a rather different line-up, with Peter Berg’s Battleship being the biggest name amongst the new arrivals, opposite Kevin Macdonald’s critically acclaimed documentary, Marley.
My picks of the week:
Kevin Macdonald’s Marley & Daniel Lee’s White Vengeance.
DVD and Blu-ray (inc. Digital and UltraViolet Copies)
Oscar-winner Kevin Macdonald (The Last King of Scotland) returned this year with Marley, a documentary following on from his Life in a Day project last year, bringing us a portrait of one of the most iconic figures in music of the last century.
And we’ve currently got three copies of the film on Blu-ray to give away – click here to enter the competition.
“Marley is the definitive film about one of the most loved international icons of the 20th Century, Bob Marley. His music and message of love and redemption are known throughout the world and his story has finally been brought to life in this definitive work. Acclaimed director Kevin Macdonald (The Last King of Scotland, State of Play, Life in a Day) joined forces with the Marley family to direct the ultimate authorised documentary film on the life, legacy and global impact of one of the most influential musicians in history. Marley marks the first time ever that Bob’s family has authorised the use of their own private Bob Marley archives.”
DVD and Blu-ray
Acclaimed Hong Kong writer-director Daniel Lee (14 Blades, Dragon Squad) returns this year with White Vengeance, assembling a cast headed up by Leon Lai (Seven Swords), Feng Shaofeng (Liu Rushi), Liu Yifei (The Forbidden Kingdom), and Zhang Hanyu (The Founding of a Republic).
If you’re a fan of Asian cinema, and action epics in particular, this looks to be your choice this week for sure.
The film was released in China and Hong Kong last November and December, and is heading straight to DVD/Blu-ray this week in the UK, where it will undoubtedly find a strong and eagerly-awaiting audience.
“Two brothers contend for supremacy during the fall of the Qin Dynasty in Imperial China. Liu Bang (Leon Lai) and Xiang Yu (Feng Shaofeng), became leaders of a rebellious army, and also became sworn brothers in battle. King Huai states that whoever can subvert the Qin kingdom in will be the Lord Qin, in order to benefit from the competition between Xiang Yu and Liu Bang. But who will emerge as the winner from this epic battle and survive to claim their path to the crown?”
388 Arletta Avenue
DVD and Blu-ray
This Canadian thriller debuted at TIFF last year, and after a limited London release back in April, is essentially heading straight to DVD/Blu-ray here in the UK.Low-budget thrillers like this tend not to succeed on the big screen, but do very well in the home entertainment market.
Mia Kirshner (24, The L Word), one of my all-time favourite actresses (and far more lesser-known than she deserves), stars alongside Nick Stahl and Devon Sawa in the leads, and I can’t wait to see how it plays out.
“A Hitchcock-style thriller shot from the point of view of hidden cameras following James and Amy, a couple being secretly videotaped 24/7 by a mysterious stalker. As the stalker beings to subtly manipulate the unsuspecting couple, cracks in their relationship begin to surface. When Amy vanishes, James is not sure whether she has been abducted or has simply left him. The acts of the tormentor become more twisted and violent as James tries to figure out the source of the terror.”
DVD and Blu-ray
Oscar-winner Juliette Binoche (The English Patient) stars in this 18-/NC-17-rated film, alongside Anaïs Demoustier (Last Winter) and Joanna Kulig (The Woman in the Fifth). The subject is not an easy one to tackle, but writer-director Malgorzata Szumowska looks to have done a good job.
It had a limited release in the UK and US back in April, so if you missed it in theatres, now is your chance to see it in the comfort of your own home. I highly recommend watching the trailer, which has the benefit of having rather beautiful music.
“Anne (Juliette Binoche) is a journalist who, during her investigation into prostitution, encounters two young girls who use their bodies as a way to make easy money. Fascinated by them, she is drawn into their world, which stands in marked contrast to her own bourgeois life. Juliette Binoche gives a characteristically committed performance in Malgorzata Szunowska’s frank drama, whose camera never shies away from the details of the girl’s work, always capturing Anne’s response to it.”
DVD and Blu-ray
The Luc Besson-produced Lockout was released earlier this year to fairly expected reviews – the critics weren’t particularly enthused, but audiences enjoyed it. I missed its release back in April, but the trailer makes it look like a great action/sci-fi feature that doesn’t take itself too seriously, and with Guy Pearce, Maggie Grace, and Peter Stormare leading the cast, you can’t go too wrong.
“A man wrongly convicted of conspiracy to commit espionage against the U.S. is offered his freedom if he can rescue the president’s daughter from an outer space prison taken over by violent inmates.”
DVD and Blu-ray (inc. Digital and UltraViolet copies)
Peter Berg’s Battleship was one of the main blockbuster casualties left in The Avengers’ wake, and will probably be remembered for this reason, coming in second in its opening weekend against The Avengers, which was still number one three weeks after release.
Beyond the US, however, the film did some solid business, taking $300m. from its $200m. budget internationally, and will no doubt make that profit margin look much nicer for Universal now that it’s arriving on the home entertainment market.
The cast, led by Taylor Kitsch, Alexander Skarsgård, Liam Neeson, Brooklyn Decker, and Rihanna, coupled with Berg behind the camera, is more than enough to make it worth seeking out in my book.
“Peter Berg (Hancock) produces and directs Battleship, an epic-scaled action-adventure that unfolds across the seas, in the skies and over land as our planet fights for survival against a superior force. Inspired by Hasbro’s classic naval combat game, Battleship stars Taylor Kitsch as Lt. Alex Hopper, a Naval officer assigned to the USS John Paul Jones; Brooklyn Decker as Sam Shane, a physical therapist and Hopper’s fiancée; Alexander Skarsgård as Hopper’s older brother, Stone, Commanding Officer of the USS Sampson; Rihanna as Petty Officer Raikes, Hopper’s crewmate and a weapons specialist on the USS John Paul Jones; and international superstar Liam Neeson as Hopper and Stone’s superior (and Sam’s father), Admiral Shane.
Berg directs this epic action-adventure also produced by Scott Stuber (Couples Retreat), Sarah Aubrey (The Kingdom), Brian Goldner and Bennett Schneir of Hasbro (the Transformers franchise), along with Duncan Henderson (Master and Commander) and Jeffrey Silver (300). The film is written by Jon Hoeber & Erich Hoeber (Red).
The battle for Earth begins at sea.”
Irvine Welsh’s Ecstasy
DVD and Blu-ray
Irvine Welsh will always be known for his novel Trainspotting, and its impeccable film adaptation. Irvine Welsh’s Ecstasy adapts the short story, The Undefeated, from Welsh’s best-selling book, Ecstasy, with Rob Heydon making his feature directorial debut.
The brilliant Kristen Kreuk (Smallville) stars alongside Adam Sinclair (The Day of the Triffids), Billy Boyd (The Lord of the Rings), and the excellent Carlo Rota (24, The Boondock Saints).
“Irvine Welsh s follow up to Trainspotting – Ecstasy is a twisted tale that explores the euphoric highs and the devastating lows of a chemical romance. Lloyd (Adam Sinclair Mile High) is on top of the world beautiful girls, great club sounds, and a never ending supply of the love drug, sustained by a smuggling sideline for the local drug boss. But when he meets Heather (Kristin Kreuk Smallville) he is forced to question if the love he feels is real or just another chemical high. Cracks start to appear in his world as he realises he wants out. If he can just pull off one last job, he ll be free. A gritty tale of love and seduction, with a pulsating soundtrack at its heart, featuring Tiesto, Coldplay, Orbital, Paul Oakenfold and Primal Scream.”
The Vampire Diaries – Season 3
DVD and Blu-ray (inc. UltraViolet Copy)
The CW’s popular vampire series, The Vampire Diaries, continues with its third season, premiering in the US last September.
Nina Dobrev, Paul Wesley, and Ian Somerhalder return once more for the supernatural drama, and with the programme renewed for a fourth season, you’ve got a bit of time to enjoy the third season now if you missed its broadcast.
“The sexy and supernatural cast of The Vampire Diaries are back with the compelling 22 episode season three. As Stefan succumbs to Klaus, Damon and Elena wrestle with the guilt of their growing bond while they work together to bring Stefan back from the edge. And when Mikael the Original vampire hunter, Esther the Original witch and their children arise from their caskets to resolve a 1,000-year-old power struggle, Mystic Falls becomes a battleground for World War Vampire, with Elena caught dead centre between them – and, as always, between Damon and Stefan.”
Borgia – Season 1
DVD and Blu-ray
Created by Tom Fontana (Oz, the upcoming Copper) and with the Oscar-nominated Oliver Hirschbiegel (Downfall) at the helm for the first four episodes of the season, the first season of Borgia – not to be confused with The Borgias – reaches shelves this week.
Filming for the second season is set to get underway later this year in Prague and Italy, making now the perfect time to get hooked with season one.
“The last decade of the 15th Century, the Renaissance, an enlightened era of immense scientific advancements, where intellectual and artistic endeavours changed the world and Europe became the centre of global commerce. It was the time of Michelangelo, Leonardo Da Vinci and Botticelli.
But amidst the deadly shadows of an archaic and crumbling Rome, extreme violence, depravity and corruption still have a stranglehold on the eternal city. Within this murderous abyss of treachery and death stands the infamous Cardinal Rodrigo Borgia (John Doman – The Wire). A ruthless man whose relentless lust for power is about to lead the church and the world into one of the most controversial and darkest chapters in known history.
Created by Tom Fontana (Oz) and directed by Oliver Hirschbiegel (Downfall), Dearbhla Walsh (The Tudors), Metin Hüseyin (Merlin) and Christoph Schrewe, Borgia: Season 1 contains 12 episodes.”
Topping this week’s releases getting the HD treatment for the first time is Carlos Saura’s Golden Globe-nominated Cría Cuervos. The 1976 Spanish film has been released by The Criterion Collection in the US in the past, and now the BFI have restored it for a Blu-ray release this week on our shores in the UK.
Also getting the HD treatment this week is the 1953 war action/drama, Sailor of the King (also known as Single-Handed), starring Jeffrey Hunter, Michael Rennie, and Wendy Hiller.